Female Empowerment in Pop Culture: Film Edition

This post is dedicated to female empowerment in pop culture (in this edition to films) and how it can serve as a resource for classroom work and as a fun plan to try at home.

In this space, we will explore a selection of films and books that not only highlight inspiring women in their stories, but also feature the active participation of women in their creative process. From powerful narratives to iconic characters, we will dive into works that celebrate the talent and diversity of women in different artistic fields.

⚠️ Classroom tips ⚠️ : View the films before using them as an educational resource as there are many issues present that need to be addressed in different ways, both before and after viewing. These two books by María García Amilburu can be very useful for the use of film as a teaching resource in the classroom: Mil mundos dentro del aula: cine y educación and Teoría y práctica del análisis pedagógico del cine.

In the world of film, the presence and participation of women at all stages of the creative process is essential to ensure the representation of diverse points of view and experiences. From screenwriting to producing and directing, women bring a unique perspective that enriches the stories told on the big screen. The films highlighted in this section address a wide range of themes, from female empowerment to the struggle for gender equality, to the exploration of friendship, love, and identity.

For all audiences

Lady Bird (2017)

Genre: Comedy drama. Adolescence. Independent cinema USA. Motherhood. Coming of age.

From renowned director Greta Gerwig. A rebellious teenager (Saoirse Ronan) struggles to find her place in the world while clashing with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) in this poignant portrait of adolescence and the search for identity.

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Moxie (2021)
Genre: Comedy. Drama. Music. Feminism. College & University

Inspired by her mother’s activism in her youth, a teenage girl (Hadley Robinson) anonymously decides to challenge the sexist culture at her high school by leading a feminist revolution through an underground magazine. It is directed by comedian, screenwriter and producer Amy Poehler. And you can watch it on Netflix.

The Marvels (2023)

Genre: Science fiction. Fantastic. Action. Adventure. Comedy : Space adventure. Superheroes. Comic books. Marvel Comics. MCU. Sequel

This superhero movie follows Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), also known as Captain Marvel, on her intergalactic adventures as she fights evil and demonstrates the power and bravery of women. This time she teams up with Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), also known as Ms. Marvel, and her niece, Captain Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris). Directed by Nia DaCosta and is on Disney+.

Little Women (2019)

Genre: Drama. Romance | Romantic drama. Rural life (North America). Family. 19th century.

Based on Louisa May Alcott’s acclaimed novel, this film remake follows the lives of four sisters, Amy (Florence Pugh), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and Meg (Emma Watson), as they navigate youth, love and independence in 19th century America. Directed by Greta Gerwig and available on Netflix.

The Farewell (2019)

Genre: Drama. Comedy. Family relationships. Old age. Coming of age. Immigration. Grief. Dramatic comedy. Independent cinema USA. Based on true events.

A young American girl returns to China to say goodbye to her ailing grandmother, confronting family and cultural traditions in this poignant story about growing up, culture and family. Directed and scripted by Lulu Wang and starring Awkwafina. In Spain available on Filmin.

Turning red (2022)

Genre: Animation. Fantastic. Adventure. Comedy. Adolescence. Family relationships. Friendship. Family cinema. Coming of age.

This Disney film deals with puberty in a unique and realistic way, something rarely seen in this type of film. It’s a story that will resonate with girls who are experiencing changes in their bodies and hormones and all of us who have experienced them. Directed by Domee Shi, with the voices of Rosalie Chiang and Sandra Oh, and you can watch it on Disney+.

Barbie (2023)

Genre: Comedy. Fantastic : Satire. Feminism. Magical realism. Motherhood. Machismo

In Barbie, Margot Robbie stars as a doll who defies the standards of perfection in her idyllic world, deciding to venture out into the real world to discover her true identity, accompanied by Ken (Ryan Gosling). As they explore, they are confronted with a new reality that challenges pre-established concepts of beauty and normality, in a story that challenges gender stereotypes and expectations.

Spanish cinema is going strong

Rosa’s Wedding (2020)

Genre: Dramatic comedy. Self-knowledge. Self-esteem. Family relationships.

Rosa (Candela Peña), a determined and self-sufficient woman, decides to celebrate her wedding to herself after years of failed relationships, in this touching comedy about self-love and independence. Directed by Íciar Bollaín and currently on Netflix.

Chinas (2023)

Genre: Drama. Social hundred. Childhood and adolescence. Family relationships. Culture shock. Adoption. Friendship. Sibling relationships. Racism

In this film by Arantxa Echevarría, the lives of Lucía and Xiang, two Chinese girls in Madrid, are intertwined, each struggling with her identity and her place in Spanish society. Through their stories, the film addresses issues of immigration, adoption and the search for identity, challenging stereotypes and showing the diversity of experiences of women of Asian origin in Spain. With a cast of girls and women in the leading roles, including Daniela Shiman Yang, Xinyi Ye, Ella Qiu, Leonor Watling, Carolina Yuste and Yeju Ji, with many nominations behind them, including two for Best New Actress.

The Girls (2020)

Genre: Drama | Childhood. Adolescence. 1990s. School & University

In the 1990s, an 11-year-old girl experiences a summer of personal and sexual discovery in this emotional and evocative story about childhood and identity. It offers an authentic and subtle portrait of education in Spain in the 1990s, questioning the backward thinking of a society. The film immerses us in a time when gender norms and social expectations were problematic, providing a look at self-discovery and the loss of innocence.

With Andrea Fandós and Natalia de Molina in the lead, it won the Goya 2022 for Best Film and Best New Director for its director Pilar Palomero. You can watch it on Amazon Prime

Most hooligan series and films

Booksmart (2019)

Genre: Youth comedy. Black comedy. Punk comedy. Coming of age. Adolescence. Friendship. High school.

Two friends decide to live their last night before graduation to the fullest, defying social expectations and stereotypes in this refreshing comedy about friendship and authenticity. Featuring Olivia Wilde in her directorial debut and hilarious Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Lisa Kudrow. Available on Amazon Prime.

Fleabag (2016)

Genre: TV series. Comedy : Black comedy. Grief. Friendship. Sibling relationships. Family relationships. Self-awareness.

This comedy series follows the life of a London woman (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), who also created, directed and scripted it. Fleabag navigates love, family and loss, defying social norms and stigma in her search for authenticity and redemption. The cast also includes Sian Clifford, Olivia Colman and Andrew Scott and is available on Amazon Prime.

Shiva Baby (2020)

Genre: Comedy. Drama | Remake. Unique setting. Family relationships. Religion. Black Humour. Millennial Love.

A young woman (Rachel Sennott) attends a Jewish memorial service with her family, where she comes face to face with her ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend’s wife, setting off a series of uncomfortable and revealing events in this acid comedy about relationships and social expectations. Directed and scripted by Emma Seligman, who also directed the 2023 teen comedy Bottoms.

Promising Young Woman (2020)

Genre: Thriller. Drama : Black comedy. Revenge. Crime. Sexual abuse, Female Empowerment.

Second film directed by Emerald Fennell, who also directed the controversial Saltburn in 2023. Cassie (Carey Mulligan), whose bright future is cut short by a mysterious incident. Now, living a double nightlife, she has the chance to exact revenge on those who wronged her. This provocative feminist thriller challenges the conventions of the genre, questioning the idea of revenge as catharsis and offering a bold and thought-provoking look at female empowerment.

Maid (2021)

Genre: TV series. Drama. Comedy. TV miniseries. Motherhood. Comedy drama. Series based on books. USA Series. Series based on real events. Social drama. Work.

“Maid follows the story of Alex (Margaret Qualley), a single mother struggling with destitution and bureaucracy as she works as a maid to secure a better future for her daughter. Through an emotional and humorous lens, the series explores maternal resilience, damaging relationships and personal empowerment, offering a raw and inspiring account of one woman’s daily struggle for survival and the well-being of her family. Created by Molly Smith Metzler and can be marathoned on Netflix.

Stay tuned to the April blog, as we will be publishing these recommendations and many others to learn and pass on this knowledge in the classroom.

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